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Monday, July 3, 2017

Plants, Re-Making some Plant Medicines and a Word on Plant Blindness, Did I Mention Plants?

Pagan Spirit Gathering as well as just my general diet have given me severe meat fatigue. I have no intention of going vegetarian again (there are reasons I am not one anymore, after all), but I crave more food that is plant-based or at least not very meat-heavy.  I'm preparing some dry beans today... it's not paleo, but I question the avoidance of beans and not nuts on that diet anyway, so we'll just see how it works for me.

I was looking at my collection of oils and tinctures a couple days ago and hyper aware that I didn't really make them appropriately (I used flavored spirits in some of them, left them steep too long, didn't stir or shake enough).  Since some of these medicines are things I really want to start using to deal with things like menstrual cramps and headaches, I decided to re-make them using straight up vodka, actually writing dates and uses on them, etc.  Some of the oils I just strained and re-jarred... I am less worried by these because they are topicals, and while topical doesn't mean safe, I'm less concerned they will acutely poison me, at least the ones I use (which are generally pretty safe to begin with).  I also harvested some broadleaf plantain from the lawn and peppermint from the garden a couple days ago to make a topical oil.
Photograph of my shrine (my Goddexes are in the cabinet)
with jars of labeled tinctures and oils.

I made tinctures of calendula, skullcap, cramp bark, black pepper, and elderberry that are currently sitting on my shrine steeping.  In a couple weeks I will strain them and put a portion of each into a glass dropper bottle.  The oils (the arnica oil as well as the plantain/peppermint oil) I'll do the same with, the latter I'll also put a few doses in plastic single-use vodka bottles I have because they're a great addition to a street medic first aid kit (unlikely to break, so a lot safer than the glass bottles, cheap enough to give away).  I may also harden some with beeswax to put in tins.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to get some reishi and pine pollen that I'll both tincture and use in shakes (the reishi I guess makes you want to sleep so it may not be wise to put it in my morning coffee, but you never know).  The pine pollen, according to the book I talked about here, might counteract a few of the effects of going off testosterone.  These are also two things I may be able to collect rather than buy, speaking of which...

I'd like to take up more wildcrafting (foraging) again.   While on a lunch break recently I was able to collect some ginkgo and purslane.  The purslane I tend to just eat, as it's quite delicious.  I'm probably going to do some totemic work with the ginkgo as I don't know that I have a use for it right now (I have the book "Plant and Fungus Totems" by Lupa which was a great eye-opener as far as plant spirituality, and I will be using that).

I want to learn more mushrooms, too.  I have been taking Four Sigmatic's Mushroom Academy course, which describes some mushrooms (including the now-popular reishi) which do grow around here in some form.  I'm reasonably sure I would be able to identify reishi, but want a competent instructor before I actually look for it to use.  I may look for it on my wildcrafting walks to work with it in a magickal/totemic sense until I am able to confidently identify it.  I miss mushroom hunting; I used to collect morel mushrooms but developed a toxicity reaction (I vomit violently if I eat it).  So I collect it for others, because I do love the act of foraging, but I would like something I can actually use, and medicinal properties are a huge plus for me.  I may try some of Four Sigmatic's stuff someday but I would like to be able to acquire things without purchasing them as much as possible (it doesn't help that they've started making K-Cups, which are fucking terrible).

I've been doing a lot of thinking about plant blindness.  I've been an edible plant hobbyist for a really long time (starting in my teens but with spurts even earlier, coming from a hunting family we did things like forage for asparagus and rhubarb).  When you start learning to identify plants, the natural world starts looking really different.  You realize that most people growing up in an industrial culture, when they see a natural space, they see a sea of indistinct green.  The more you learn, though, the less indistinct it is, the more you notice individual species and the easier it is to rapidly distinguish them.  I noticed one day maybe four or five years ago that driving down the road I would naturally start picking out ditch plants and my mind would wander to their uses.  "Bull thistle, that tastes like artichoke, chicory, that's a coffee substitute, there's some wild mustard, there's some curly dock that will explode into seeds that can be made into flour, there's wild carrot, that's a popular birth control."

Walking through a lawn for me is a very different experience than it was.  My eyes wander and pinpoint things like broadleaf plantain--which is a very healing plant--wild chamomile/pineappleweed, and poison ivy, even the little baby poison ivy nobody notices because it's mowed down in a lawn, sticks out to me like a giant danger sign.  It's even resulted in my weirdly specific talent of being able to find four- and more-leafed clovers without looking for them.  I just... see them.  My dad and I actually have a game when we forage, where we try to find four-leafed clovers without bending over.  If you bend over and you were wrong, you lose.  I don't really lose often.  I am reasonably cured of my plant blindness.
This looks like a five-leafed clover, but if you look close,
it's actually a six-leafed clover.
"Well good for you," you may be thinking, "but what does this have to do with anything?"  As it turns out, plant blindness is actually a big deal for the planet, because when average people think of protecting the environment, they're thinking about animals, especially relatable animals.  They're thinking about polar bears dying, or how we killed the dodo and the passenger pigeon, or the poaching of elephants and rhinos.  And although all of these are very important things to think about, we wind up ignoring less-relatable life.  This includes things like fungi, insects, and plants.  Things we consider either nuisances or indistinct parts of the scenery rather than life worth protecting.  And it's not even just about the plants and insects, but the fact that they are such an integral part of keeping the relatable animals we try to protect fed and safe.

I don't believe environmentalism should be about human needs, but this is still a big and important thing for humans.  When we allow plants to be destroyed because we think animals are all that matter, we are allowing potential plant medicines that could treat all manner of human illnesses to go extinct before we can discover them.  I'm not some bullshit Pinterest board, I'm not going to tell you that an herbal tea or eating lemons are going to cure cancer, but there are compounds in these plants that are valuable to scientists that can be used to make valuable pharmaceuticals.  All in that sea of green people refuse to see.